A fire in the basement of a three-story mixed-use building at 799 Valencia St. on the north east corner of 19th and Valencia streets was contained to the basement early Thursday, Jan. 13. The floor level of the building houses Yasmin, a Middle Eastern restaurant, and the upper two stories are residential. The San Francisco Fire Department reported no victims or displacements and that Red Cross services were not required.
The San Francisco Fire Department was alerted at 4:17 a.m. and had contained the fire by 4:36 a.m.
Eiad Eltawil, who has owned Yasmin for three years, was alerted to the incident by a neighbor of his business, and he drove to the site from Daly City early Thursday morning.
“The firefighters were really quick,” he said, adding that the damage in his restaurant was due to water. “Not huge issues, a water pipe broke.”
Neighbors reported having waited on the street for two hours in pajamas while firefighters responded to the fire as well as ongoing difficulty with the smoke. One resident and her roommates stayed with friends Thursday night, and they expected smoke remediation services from their landlord over the weekend.
“There was tons of smoke that came up in the apartments,” said another resident living in the building. The smoke had been so thick at first, she said, it was difficult to see the floor while exiting the building.
She also said that she heard two men arguing after an explosion at 4 a.m. “There’s a bigger story to how this fire started,” she said, adding at least one was interviewed by the police as well as some residents.
The San Francisco Fire Department said the source of the fire is under investigation, but they consider it intentional. The San Francisco Police Department opened a burglary investigation for the site, but they had not responded to Mission Local requests for comment by the end of the day.
Eltawil said he thought the source may have been a gas leak, and that none of his restaurant’s neighbors living above were impacted.
Eltawil was waiting on 19th Street Thursday morning for news of his business with his wife, Sahar Milani, who founded and owns Rossi Mission SF art gallery, two buildings to the north on Valencia Street. Eltawil’s restaurant replaced Ali Baba’s Cave, which his uncle owned for more than 30 years.
Milani’s gallery hosted an art show opening Friday. “It’s bad timing,” Eltawil said, noting he had never been through the process of addressing damage from a fire. He thinks it will be at least two weeks before Yasmin is running again.
As of 10 a.m. Thursday, firefighters were carrying wet debris and items from inside Yasmin.
Caution tape had been placed across the 19th and Valencia intersection from its northwest to southeast corners, and San Francisco Police Department officers diverted pedestrians and bicyclists around the tape. Caution tape also blocked the section of 19th Street between Valencia and Lexington.
If you have information regarding this investigation, call the San Francisco Police Department Tip Line at 1-415-575-4444, or send a text to TIP411.
The SFPD’s data on crime can be found here.